Astronomy vs Astrology?
Have you finally succumbed to temptation and read your horoscope in the Sunday morning newspaper? Of course, we all have. For most of us, it’s a curiosity, a pastime to see what they say will make our day based on the zodiac sign we were born under. Sometimes we forget that this small deviation is actually part of an ancient science called astrology that has had a powerful influence on many cultures since centuries before Christ.
This does not mean that astrology is a dead art today. Astrologers are easily found in every city, and advertisements in newspapers and on television try to convince us that they can tell our fortunes and our future and can help cure our ailments by discovering the secrets of astrology.
When you are an astronomy lover, the confusion between astronomy and astrology can be quite annoying for those who don’t really understand the difference. And in early civilization, the two subjects were no different. Astrology was the religious aspect of astronomy. So what changes?
The most significant change in the speed of the separation of the two lines of thought began in the first century when Ptolemy wrote the first book on astronomy called Tetrabibbles. In this, he began to suggest that astronomy should be considered a separate science from astrology. It was quite a revolutionary book as it was the first scientific document to suggest that the Earth is not the center of the universe and that astronomy should focus strictly on observing and recording events in the universe.
In the next 2000 years, we have come a long way. Not only have science and religion completely gone their separate paths since Ptolemy, but the science of astronomy makes tremendous progress every year which is so remarkable that Ptolemy would be truly amazed.
Perhaps the biggest difference between a student of astrology and astronomy is the belief that the positions of the stars affect the events in our lives. Of course, we know that the seasons and tides and other important aspects of our lives are influenced by the stars, planets, and celestial bodies, especially the Moon. But these things are happening in motion solely because of explainable scientific laws, and not because of supernatural forces at work.
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What can we, as astronomy enthusiasts, conclude about the close relationship between astrology and astronomy? Well, of course, we want someone confused by the similarity of words to be able to explain what the difference is. We don’t want to see the two perspectives of stars and planets confused again. But we should do our best to keep that distinction clear, without doubting or dismissing those who still hold the teachings of astrology.
It is important to remember that a person has a level of sacred faith that is part of their religious life. And it is not respectable to make fun of such things. If for no reason other than to respect the ancient origins of astrology, then we should be polite to those who are still searching whether astrology has any validity or not.
If we can treat each discipline with respect but maintain the separation between astrology and astronomy, then the two approaches to our appreciation of the galaxy cannot coexist in peace and harmony. And for our purposes as astronomers, that harmony will give us enough freedom to enjoy our pursuit of knowledge for many more centuries to come. And who knows, you might still prefer reading horoscopes every Sunday morning.
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